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PC Sales Slow, But Haven't Tanked... Yet

November PC sales slowed in November, but haven't fallen off a cliff due to strong notebook and netbook unit growth, according to NPD data.

NPD has released its PC sell-through stats and November unit growth was 6 percent from a year ago compared to 10 percent in October. While that growth isn't a home run it's not Armageddon. Meanwhile, worries about Apple's November results may be overblown (Techmeme) since the company had a huge October.

Citi analyst Richard Gardner, who compiled the NPD data, notes that PC sales are holding up due to lower average selling prices (down 12 percent), a shift from desktops to notebooks and netbooks. Best Buy's earnings on Tuesday confirm that notebook sales are solid.

By the numbers:

  • Notebook units were up 17 percent in November for a year ago; Desktops were down 20 percent from a year ago;
  • Seventy-eight percent of PCs sold in November via retail chains were notebooks;
  • Netbooks were 3.6 percent of all notebooks sold in November;
  • Acer has 58 percent market share in netbooks;
  • HP PC unit growth was up 6 percent in November and Dell units were up 794 percent, but that's because it didn't have a retail channel a year ago;
  • Apple was flat in November with notebook growthâ€"MacBooksâ€"up 22 percent, but offset by a 38 percent decline in desktop units.
While the Apple growthâ€"or lack of itâ€"will raise a lot of discussion, Gardner notes that sales may be more nuanced.
Apple delivered flat yoy growth in total Mac unit sell through in Nov., below the market average of +6% yoy. Notebook growth of +22% yoy was entirely offset by a 38% yoy decline in desktop units. However, this follows an Oct. in which Apple outgrew the market by almost 3X thanks to very strong initial demand for the new unibody MacBook. iPod sell-through declined 13% yoy in US retail in Nov. following a 9% yoy decline in Oct. While NPD data only provides a view to roughly one third of Apple's global iPod sales (a smaller percentage than for PCs), our extrapolation of Oct/Nov results suggests iPod shipments of 18-22M during 4CQ08 versus our est and consensus of 20-22M. However, iPod mix appears more skewed toward higher-ASP iPod touch units than we had expected.
Add it up and Apple is keeping the profits and forgoing the price wars.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster also chimes in:

Given the MacBook launch in October, we expected growth rates for Mac would likely decelerate in the months of November and December. Oct. Mac NPD units saw a 28% y/y increase due to the new MacBooks. We see the growth rate of 11% through the 1st 2 months of the Dec. quarter as an in-line result. Also, the month of Nov-08 included 5 fewer holiday shopping days (or days in Nov. following Thanksgiving) than the Nov-07 timeframe; in other words, Nov-07 provides a tough comparison for the y/y Mac and iPod growth.
We'll see how this Apple holiday shopping saga turned out when the company releases earnings next month.

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and Editorial Director of ZDNet sister site TechRepublic. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations. This post first appeared on ZDNet's Between the Lines blog.